Despite a wave of public outcry from residents, Realtors, landowners and developers alike, the commission, sitting as the governing board of Pahrump, was unable to pass a motion to begin the process of seeking legal action to halt Nevada State Engineer Order #1293.
The order, issued in December, requires those wishing to construct a new domestic well to first purchase two acre-feet of water rights and relinquish them back to the state prior to drilling.
Nye County Commissioners Dan Schinhofen, Lorinda Wichman and John Koenig apparently had no appetite to fund legal recourse against the order.
Commissioner Butch Borasky’s motion to start with a free consultation with attorney Dave Rigdon was voted down with Borasky and Commissioner Donna Cox voting in favor and Schinhofen, Wichman and Koenig against.
During the same meeting, another item was addressed in relation to Order #1293. That item called for discussion and deliberation to direct the water board to:
■ identify, quantify and investigate the relinquishment of water rights within subdivisions without infrastructure;
■ investigate the feasibility of community wells;
■ investigate the feasibility to give an option in the town of Pahrump to choose a conservation well as opposed to purchasing two acre-feet of water rights.
This also met with failure, as the commissioners were at once again at odds over the actions proposed.
Schinhofen started the discussion, telling the audience and his fellow commissioners, “I asked for this item. We do have the authority to request the water district do certain things.”
Schinhofen said the water board had been making diligent progress in the past two years, as detailed in the backup for the item. However, he remarked that there were other ideas that he would like to see the water district to pursue, hence the item.
When making a motion to approve giving direction to the water board, Schinhofen only called out the first two actions listed in the item and decided to drop the third, conservation wells. He said this was due to the fact that the state engineer does not have the power to authorize conservation wells.
However, that proposal may not be dead as Schinhofen said the idea could very well be brought before the Nevada Legislature in 2019 as a bill draft request.
Wichman offered a second on the motion contingent on Schinhofen amending it to state “ask respectfully” rather than “direct.” “Because we cannot direct them,” she asserted. Schinhofen heeded her request and made the amendment.
During public comment, most of the speakers were still focused on Order #1293 but some came forward with questions about the requests the county was proposed to be making.
Local resident Rich Lauver said he was concerned about the concept of a community well as he did not feel he fully understood how that would benefit the community.
“I don’t understand how that gains anything because my understanding of a community well is, it still requires two-acre foot of water per parcel … So if you have 10 parcels on a community well, my understanding would still be, now you would be required to purchase 20 acre-feet of water rights, if I am not mistaken. And now that you are in a community well setting, is it a three-to-one ratio? You might actually be causing more costs by this system,” Lauver asserted.
Schinhofen responded that was the reason he wanted the water district to investigate the proposal.
Koenig agreed, stating, “We don’t know the answers to those questions. As we look into it, if we get agreement from people like the state, we can hopefully set the parameters…”
Before the motion came to a vote, Cox made her opinion on the item quite clear. “I do not want to give the water board any control over anything anymore,” Cox declared. “I think the water board has shown themselves to be what they are by supporting this order… I will not vote to put any of this into their hands.”
Schinhofen’s motion to request action from the water district failed with a tie vote of 2-2, with Koenig and himself in favor, Borasky and Cox against and Wichman, who had left the meeting, absent. However, the item must be brought back before the commission at a future meeting as required by Nevada Revised Statute for all tie votes by an elected board.
Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @pvtimes